Friday, February 7, 2014

Eamon: Recap and Redactions

Okay, I admit I'm not quite where I hoped to be in terms of being ready with the next post.  I'd hoped to have played a few more Eamon games to get back in the swing of things and to have a bit more to say.  But I've been enormously busy the last week, and haven't had any free time to speak of to devote to the matter.  Still, I said in the last post that the next post would "seriously, seriously be up in less than a week".  So I figured I'd better follow through on that.  After all, I said "seriously" twice.  That's serious.

Anyway, I suppose even without having played more Eamon games, it's worth making a post just because it's been so long since the last post on Eamon it's worthwhile just briefly reviewing what we're up against—as well as correcting .  Eamon is sort of a text adventue / RPG hybrid that was one of the first game creation systems I could find... I said it was the first before, but that was before I decided to acknowledge the fuzziness between level editors and game creation systems, and to go ahead and count the former as well; there are some games with level editors that predated Eamon (and we'll get to those when we finally finish with Eamon).

I guess there's no need to recap everything about Eamon, though, since you can always read the earlier posts to refresh your memory if you're so inclined.  I did, however, want to address a few matters that I stated in the earlier posts that turned out to be incorrect.  I'd planned to discuss these along with my further playing experience, but, what the hey, I guess there's really no reason those have to be in the same post.  So here goes.

First of all, I'd mentioned some commonalities between Eamon and the seminal text adventure Zork, and surmised that the former likely took some inspiration from the latter—or if not from Zork itself, from its mainframe predecessor Dungeon.  Turns out that's not the case—or at least so I infer from, among other things, the fact that the Eamon documentation mentions the original adventure game Colossal Cave but never Zork or Dungeon—and, in any case, it seems to have possibly predated Zork, and Dungeon was only available on a mainframe that Eamon creator Donald Brown is unlikely to have had access to, so it was probably an untenable assumption in the first place.  In any case, it's not particularly surprising that Donald Brown and the creators of Dungeon independently decided to add RPG elements to a text adventure, given that Dungeons & Dragons was a big part of the zeitgeist at the time.

It also turns out I was wrong in supposing that the diagonal compass directions were added around version 6; they were there in Version 5 as an optional feature, though I think for my adventure I'll stick to the four cardinal directions, to limit myself as much as possible to what would have been available in the earlier version.  I was also mistaken about there being "no in-between" between monsters being friendly (and accompanying you and risking their lives to fight your foes) and hostile (attacking you on sight)... it is indeed possible for monsters to be indifferent to you, neither following you nor attacking you.  In fact, it seems that the algorithm checks the monster's hostility chance twice: if the first check renders the monster non-hostile, it checks again (with the same probability based on your character's CHARISMA as well as the monster's own settings), and only if the second check also turns up non-hostile is the monster actually friendly.  This may not have been the case in the earliest versions of the game, but was certainly true by the time of Version 5.  Furthermore, some Eamon adventures do include monsters with special abilities, another feature I said I was considering putting into my game.  There are other interesting features put into some of the Eamon adventures, too, but I'll get to that in the next post when I discuss my play experience in detail... suffice to say that while Eamon was still necessarily unsophisticated compared to later games, it attracted some imaginative authors who stretched its capabilities in interesting directions.

I'd say more, but perhaps I should leave that for the next post.  I do want to get this up within less than a week from the previous post, and I've got about five minutes to go.  The next post should describe my experiences playing Eamon games, though, and the post after that, we'll finally get into what this blog's all about as I start really creating an adventure with Eamon.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Going Pro

Okay, yeah, wow.  It's been way more than a week now since my last post.  I know.  I know.  But I haven't abandoned this blog, and I determined at least not to let the entire month of January go by without an update.  (Hey, it's still January in my time zone.  I don't know when it is where you are.  Though in any case it's very unlikely that it's still January when you're reading this...)

Furthermore, in the interests of doubling down and breaking two promises at once, this post will not be about Eamon, as previously professed.  Yes, I will get back to that, and I won't take another month and a half to do it.  But something happened related to the last post that I felt I ought to mention first.

So, last month for the first time I attempted Ludum Dare, a game competition in which participants create a full game from scratch in 48 hours, based on a provided theme.  I didn't particularly care about the competition, per se; I just wanted to see if I could create a game that quickly.  Perhaps somewhat audaciously, I decided to see if I could in 48 hours (actually more like 24 for various reasons) create a game in javascript and HTML5, despite never having done so before.  Somewhat to my astonishment, I succeeded.  My creation may not have been a great game, but it was a game, and it more or less worked, and it even had a level editor.

Halfway through the last of five levels of Underequipped.

So far, that's all old news; I went over all of that in my last post.  But there's one thing I didn't mention in my last post, for the rather logical reason that it hadn't happened yet.  I didn't really follow up much with Ludum Dare itself; the guidelines recommended rating other games in order to get votes, but I was extremely busy in the weeks following the competition, and I never got around to doing so—as I said, I wasn't really in it for the competition anyway; I just wanted to make a game.  (I do feel a little guilty about not supporting the other entrants by voting and commenting on their games, though... but I seriously had virtually no free time in that time period.)  But a few weeks ago, I told some friends about what I had done, and showed them the game.

Little did I know (to use the most melodramatic sentence opening possible) that one of said friends was in the process of putting together a video game company.  And he didn't have a programmer.  He and his business partner were planning on teaching themselves programming and trying to tackle the job themselves, but at that rate he expected it would be a year and a half before their first game was out.  But he was impressed enough with what I had been able to accomplish in 48 hours (though I hadn't really thought it was all that impressive) that he asked if I'd help him out with his game.

I agreed, and he invited me to come to his place that Friday so he could show me what he had so far.  He and his partner were putting together the game in Unity; I had heard of Unity, of course, but I knew very little about it—and since it was, I thought, more of an engine than a game creation system, per se, it wasn't on the agenda for this blog, either.  Still, I thought I ought to be prepared, so I did some reading up of the Unity manual, as well as a tutorial on C#, the language he and his partner wanted to use for the scripting.  I didn't get all that far before our meeting—only as far as Creating and Destroying Game Objects in the Unity manual, and Using Attributes in the C# tutorials, but at least I knew a little more about than I had.

This is just the Unity splash screen.  I can't show you the specific game I'm working on, not because there's nothing to show, but because I think at this point it's still supposed to be kind of a secret.

So, feeling a bit less prepared than I would have liked to be, I showed up on Friday, and he told me a little more about the game, and showed me what he and his partner had done so far.  Most of the graphics were in place for the introductory level, but none of the scripting had been done yet.  I figured I may as well see what I could do, so I started right in and tried getting things working, with a lot of help from web searches and posts they turned up on Unity Answers.

And so, somehow, despite never having touched Unity before—or C#, for that matter—I ended up pretty much programming the core functionality of the level that evening.  This impressed him enough he offered to make me a full partner in the company.

(To be fair, though, the gameplay was relatively simple, and the coding wasn't that complicated; someone experienced with Unity and C# could probably have easily done it all in well under hour—it took me much longer only because I kept having to look up things that anyone better versed in Unity would already know.  All the code amounted in the end to under 150 lines.)

Of course, I don't know what's going to come of this.  After the first game's done, he has a lot of other games in mind to do, and his goal is to keep churning them out at a regular basis and making some decent money from them—but of course there's no guarantee the goal will be realized.  Still, it's something, and it could end up leading to something big, even if it's not guaranteed.

So, yes, the short version is that thanks to a silly little game I created in about a day, I somehow ended up becoming a partner in a video game company.  This is not an outcome I anticipated, but what the hey.  I'll take it.

Okay, my next post will seriously, seriously be up in less than a week.  And it will seriously, seriously finally get back to Eamon.  Very sorry for the delay.